In a few months, I will embody the stereotype of a social failure: past my mid-twenties, jobless, with no immediate career prospects and living in the house of my mother’s brother. Should I feel terrible about this?
I should. I did. Eventually it felt like I shouldn’t have. But I struggled for what seemed like an eternity. Like Cary in the 1955 film “All that Heaven Allows,” I had been far too concerned about what people in my circle would say. The thought of how these happy souls would perceive my impending resignation from my job and subsequent unemployment became too stressful. I have never been too good with public opinion, having grown up in a household that has the propensity to magnify flaws.
To be honest, the work I am leaving sounds ideal: promotion of culture for quite a sum per month, and the promise of a happy working environment. It is closer to home, and my mother likes it. My family members seem to like the prestige it brings to their name that I do not share. It is fun, and somehow being with this office has made me feel socially acknowledged—that is, until I hit the rough stage of stagnation that came with the change in administration.
That I became stagnant was partially my fault, of course, as I did not seek any avenues for personal growth except for those that constituted mindless spending over methods of escapism. But I also attribute this work-related stagnation to exhausting routines that, over time, seemed to become more and more inane. It blunted intellect and there was no career promotion in sight as there are no more positions higher (and lower) than what we hold, except for our supervisors who get called back to their home country when their tenure ends.
Somewhere into my third year I sensed that I wasn’t getting anywhere in this kind of career, and I am beginning to realize that money is not everything to it. I have to leave, for I know I have outlived the expectations of my workplace. I have learned what I can, filled my address book to the brim, and dredged up the contents of the library in the hope of reviving the love that had once blinded me to this job. If there is anything sterling about my record, it would probably be my tardiness count. For four long years, I have never been late to work despite having to get up at half-past four in the morning. But the only positive note to this was of no use, and I wallowed in the mixed feelings of anxiety, fear and hopelessness. And I had a vision of myself spiraling further into the abyss.
I was jealous of the people within my circle for it seemed that they knew how a fancy plate of success tastes like. Sweet, most probably, and intoxicating, with their salaries generating tickets to faraway places and access to experiences that seemed out of reach. All these are supposedly immaterial, but their million-dollar smiles hinted that it wasn’t. Embittered, I shunned company, hid on weekends, and immersed myself in films. I denied the world that suddenly seemed so vast and hell-bent on repulsing my efforts. I recognized that the accumulated years had left a gaping hole in my life that I was desperate to fill, yet was only aggravated by the crisis that made my generation doubt its life objectives and directions.
I wept in secret, but there had been many more tears that I was forced to swallow to keep up appearances. But all I wanted was to go away, or more correctly, to disappear in whatever manner to escape from the shame that I believed existed.
I spent my 26th birthday scaling Mount Pulag. It was my third attempt in a year, with the previous two visits having been denied the sea of clouds. There I hoped that the doubts I have about myself would finally clear up, and that with the breaking of dawn 2,322 meters above sea level, I would finally have the courage to resign. I am 26, I told myself, I should be able to do that much at least.
So up I went. There was no epiphany. I descended from the peak soaked, with violent winds threatening to upset our balance. The cold and the fear seeped into my bones as I teetered on the edge, scared that I’d actually fall over to my death. In that moment I abandoned all thought of wanting to disappear; it was replaced by the intense desire to live my life with as much excitement as I could have. The closer I got to the camp, the closer I was to achieving the resolve that would put to rest all my doubts. I used to have a dream, but I can’t bury it. The only option left is to breathe life into it.
I returned to Manila convinced that resigning is the answer. I told everyone in the family, and they asked why. They asked if I had a new job lined up after, and I held my head high and said, No, I don’t have plans of working for the next three months. They looked horrified. Then my grandmother asked about finances, and I said that I’d give her three months’ worth for her peace of mind and that I am on my way to securing my finances for my months of drought. All will be well, I think. It should go as planned.
My head has obviously been filled with the thought of resigning and the benefits it would entail. I am aware that these benefits might be outweighed by the cons of having too much time on my hands, but really, I haven’t been this excited since the day my former director called to tell me that he was “thinking of hiring” me. It’s ironic that my time in this office will end with the kind of excitement that had so fueled my passion during my early years here.
It is also kind of strange to be at this age, only to wake up one day unable to see what is ahead. In the frenzy of becoming a proper adult, I lost the things that I mistakenly thought defined me. I lost my way, and I lost pieces of me, but I thought that so long as there is hope—and a course of action decided upon with the sheer strength of will—everything will work out. For the next three months, the only question left to ponder is: Where do I go from here?
“Apa,” 26, is “a cultural officer who moonlights as a writer.”
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